Saturday, September 27, 2014

Roopkund Trek With India Hikes - Day 0


Amar, Ullas, Aruna, Vinodini, Elizabeth and I had made it to Delhi and our next stop was Kathgodam for our first ever Himalayan Trek. As per our itinerary it would have been sufficient if we had reached Kathgodam early in the morning on 27th September.

The Early Birds



However because we couldn't get confirmed tickets for Ranikhet express, we reached Kathgodam by the day train and stayed over at a hotel. The hotel was average. We didn't stay long enough to actually know the good or bad of the place. 

In the Train Amar (who doesn't know Hindi) had an interesting conversation with an old man, who was sitting beside him.

Old Man - Something in Hindi
Amar - Don't know Hindi
Old Man - Which country are you from
Amar - Pondicherry
Old Man - Where is it?
Amar - South India

Needless to say we laughed a lot during the journey.

Unfortunately for others, Ranikhet express was late by about 3 hours and so we were the only ones to have arrived in time for the vehicles waiting at Kathgodam. Since we had the numbers we started our journey to Lohajung, the base camp of India Hikes for the Roopkund Trek.





Day 0

The Day 0 of the Trek to Roopkund consisted of sitting in a Tata Sumo and travelling for 12 hours through stomach churning roads in the Mountains, along the Kosi river. While it did present a beautiful and varied landscape all along the journey, some of us unceremoniously vomited due to the sharp hairpin bends induced motion sickness.


We asked the driver to stop at a good breakfast place. Everyone has some kind of understanding with the restaurant owners and they stop only at the ones they want to. However for what its worth, our driver stopped at a hell of a place. We ordered aloo paratha, pakode and omelette. They were all absolutely delicious. We had had our tea and coffee at the hotel before leaving, so we couldn't try the tea here, but I somehow feel it was more of our loss than theirs.



The driver was quite a talkative chap and he had this collection of extremely old and slow Hindi songs. Somehow they seemed fit for the beautiful weather and surroundings we were in. Not all agree with me on that though. This guy tells me that he is from Kumao and hasn't been home for 4 days. He has been driving the entire time. He was also lamenting the fact that he hasn't seen much of the places he takes people to simply because he doesn't have the time. He gave the wheels to some other guy at one place and I think he finally went home. 


We stopped at yet another pre determined place for lunch and despite hoping to get some non veg food, we were left high and dry. While the food was exceptionally good, nothing can replace a juicy piece of chicken! From what we understood, there are only a few places that serve non veg and our driver gets commission from none of them. Hard Luck.



On the way we also stopped for tea. This has been pretty much the highlight of the entire trip. Amazing tea everywhere. For a tea lover like me there is nothing better than a place that knows its tea! We also tasted some of the local sweets - Bal Mithai and Singhori. Sadly they were too quickly perishable for getting some back to Bangalore.




I slept pretty much the entire journey. It was indeed a blessing in disguise. There is nothing worse than staying awake in a long journey. However later in the day we got to know that it was simply a side effect of our little Diamox overdose.

The Journey took us through a lot of picturesque landscapes ranging from grasslands to forests of chir pine trees. There were colorful flowers at some places and Big trees at other. We crossed a lot of bridges and saw a number of hills with step farms. At some places the trees were so neatly placed, it looked like they had been planted by someone. However according to the driver they are naturally placed like that.

Towards the end of a long and boring journey we were pleasantly surprised when we met the transport organiser and he sponsored our tea. Then he gave us a bill of ₹5400, we were unaware of the fact that we had to separately pay for the transport from Kathgodam to Lohajung. As luck would have it we didn't have that much cash and there was no ATM there. So we made an arrangement with the transport organiser that we will pay the full amount on return. The free tea didn't seem so free now.






Base Camp

We were put up in a dormitory with warm blankets and soft beds. These are luxuries that we will not see for a couple of days now. We had a pretty awesome dinner consisting of roti, veg curry, dal, rice and kheer. There was also Bournvita at the end.

It was extremely cold in the base camp and I was wearing pretty much every warm cloth I had.

Soon we realized that the sky here was a zillion times more beautiful than anything else we have ever seen. Not only could we see a huge number of stars, we could actually see the milky way! Some got lucky and spotted a couple of shooting stars as well. We tried our luck at capturing the beautiful night sky but my amateur photography skills were simply not enough.

Most of the people in our batch of 27 had already met at the railway station, however we met them at the base camp. Soon after which our Trek Leader Saranbir Singh gave us general instructions like strictly no drinking and no smoking. We did not have any doctor in our group but Saran told us that he has knowledge of first aid and has done courses for it too. They also have a medical kit with almost all medicines needed including rabies in base of horse/dog bite. He asked us to drink a lot of water and this was the beginning of a lot of drinking water.

Saran also informed us that if for any reason our trek is incomplete then we can come back for the trek any time within the next one year for free. That was a pretty good thing in my opinion. 

The mountaineering glasses we got from decathlon had an outer layer of blue and an inner layer of brown. Mountaineering glasses should not be blue in colour. This caused a bit of confusion when we informed about our "special" glasses. They worked fine in the end though.

Courtesy Amarnath Gandhi 

Acute Mountain Sickness

Due to lack of general fitness or other reasons some people may get AMS, the main reason for this is lack of oxygen in the body. It usually starts with fatigue, headache and other small symptoms, however it can get serious if the person doesn't gradually descend down. 


Saran also informed us of a device called oximeter. It tells us how much oxygen we have in our blood. This will allow them to make sure we don't lie our way through the trek and end up in hospital or worse. 


We had been informed in the website about a medicine called as Diamox that is a preventive medicine for AMS and works by fooling our body to take in more oxygen in high altitude. The only people who cannot take Diamox are those who are allergic to sulpha. When Saran was talking about the doses we realized that we had taken double the amount of Diamox we were supposed to take. Luckily it had no side effect other than a sleepy journey.

We slept quite early as we had our first Trek the next day. We were going to Didina from Lohajung, trekking 8 km.

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